PARIS: Maria Sharapova squandered a 5-1 lead in the final set, and fellow Russian Dinara Safina won 18 of the last 21 points for a stunning 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 comeback victory in the fourth round at Roland Garros on Sunday.
This will be the 14th seed Safina's first berth in a Grand Slam quarterfinal. She improved to 16-4 on clay this year.
Sharapova, seeded fourth, failed to convert two set points in the opening set, then rallied but couldn't close it out. She was twice broken serving for the match, hitting errant forehands on three consecutive points to lose serve for 5-all.
Safina controlled the rallies in the final two games, keeping Sharapova on the move with shots into the corners. When Safina sealed the upset with a backhand crosscourt winner, she threw her arms aloft, then swung her racket one last time with glee.
Safina will next play another Russian, former U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The No. 8-seeded Kuznetsova lost her serve seven times but rallied past No. 9 Francesca Schiavone with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Sharapova, who has reached the semifinals at every major event except Roland Garros, looked off balance at times on the clay chasing Safina's powerful groundstrokes. In the men's draw, No. 12 seed Mario Ancic reached the Roland Garros quarterfinals for the first time, beating No. 7 Tommy Robredo 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. A weary Ancic hobbled behind the baseline and required treatment from a trainer during the 10th game of the final set before earning the victory.
In third-round play, No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic needed only two games to close out a victory over Juan Monaco, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The match was suspended because of darkness Saturday with Ljubicic leading 4-2 in the final set. The Croat rallied from two sets down to win for the third time in his career, and he improved to 6-12 in five-set matches.
Leander Paes and his Russian partner Maria Kirilenko advanced with an upset of the third-seeded American pair of Meghann Shaughnessy and Mike Bryan 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 but Sania Mirza and her Aussie comrade-in-arms Paul Hanley crashed out following a 6-0, 6-4 loss to the sixth seeds Martina Navratilova and Bob Bryan, in the first round.
Indian boys advance
Sanam Singh and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan registered contrasting wins in the first round of the boys' draw on Sunday.
Seventh seed Singh rallied from behind to beat French lad Guillaume Rufin 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 whereas Nedunchezhiyan was clinical in a 6-1, 6-4 win over Jerome Inzerillo. Nedunchezhiyan broke Inzerillo twice to race away with opening set in just 24 minutes.
In the second set, the local hopeful offered some resistance but could convert only one of the four breakpoints. The Indian, on the other hand, broke twice to win the set 6-4 and seal the match.
Singh struggled initially and lost first set 1-6 to Rufin. But as the teenager from Chandigarh got into his groove in the second set, the local started looking off-colour.